Like over half of all Americans, you may have put off creating your estate plan for any of several commonly given reasons. You may have felt you were too young, or your estate assets too modest, to warrant creating an estate plan. If you have recently decided that it is time to sit down and start on your estate plan, you may be wondering if you really need a lawyer for estate planning? After all, a lawyer costs money and you are on a budget. Furthermore, it is easy enough to find basic “fill-in-the-blank” estate planning documents, such as a Last Will and Testament, on the internet. So is it really necessary to hire a lawyer for estate planning or can you just go the “do-it-yourself” route and save money?
The Importance of Having an Estate Plan
Understanding the importance of your estate plan goes a long way in explaining why it is important to hire a lawyer to help you create your estate plan. When you think of estate planning, you may immediately think only of the division of your estate assets when you are gone. While that certainly is part of a comprehensive estate plan, it is far from everything that your estate plan can accomplish. A well thought out estate plan can also help achieve a wide range of additional goals and objectives, including:
- Incapacity planning
- Probate avoidance
- Medicaid and long-term care planning
- Business succession planning
- Tax avoidance
- Special needs planning
- Retirement and financial planning
- Pet planning
Each of these additional components can be included in your comprehensive estate plan. Collectively, these goals and objectives will all be inter-connected in your estate plan, resulting in a plan that will help grow your assets while you are here, protect you, your assets, and your loved ones during your lifetime, and provide for your loved ones when you are gone.
The Risks Involved in the DIY Route
In today’s electronic age, it is possible to find just about any legal form on the internet; however, just because you can find a legal form doesn’t mean you should rely on the form. On the contrary, the ubiquitous nature of legal “fill-in-the-blank” forms should make you leery of relying on any of them. There are numerous risks involved in using these DIY legal forms, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Forms are often out of date with “stale” language
- Forms frequently lack state specific requirements and language
- You have no way to get legal advice when filling out the forms
- Forms often fail to completely dispose of an estate
- People frequently fail to properly execute the forms
In the end, these DIY legal forms often result in an invalid Last Will and Testament or a failed attempt at creating a trust agreement. The cost of litigating these documents during the probate process generally far outweighs what it would have cost the Testator to have an attorney create the forms in the first place.
Retaining a Lawyer for Estate Planning
Your estate plan will likely be the most important set of legal documents you create and execute during the course of your lifetime. As such, it is not the time to cut corners. The time and money you might save right now by not hiring an experienced estate planning attorney will likely end up costing your loved ones considerably more in terms of both time and money when it comes time to probate your estate. Moreover, your attempt at saving time and money could result in a legal battle that will divide your family after your death. Retaining the services of an experienced lawyer for estate planning is always the best decision because it ensures that the estate plan you create will withstand any challenges after your death and will actually accomplish what you want it to accomplish.
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the need to retain the services of a lawyer for estate planning purposes, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.